Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Bait and Switch
A number of years ago, I accompanied my husband to a conference in San Francisco. During those pre-kids days, I would typically explore on my own during his meetings and then have dinner together. That time, for some reason, I decided to attend the orientation for families and heard a spiel by a fantastic walking-tour guide. He knew his facts, he presented them in interesting ways, and he was funny. I signed up.
I showed up the next morning, ready to spend a few exciting hours wandering around San Francisco, learning about the secret history and listening to a master story-teller.
But he wasn't there. He had sent someone else. This person mumbled and swallowed the second half of every other sentence and didn't make the walk interesting at all. I felt sorry for her but I also felt cheated. I paid money for a product only to be given something else.
With all the focus on " hooking" agents and editors with the first pages/paragraphs/lines, a lot of writers have polished and re polished the openings till they sparkle. What I wonder is if the rest of our books live up to the expectations set by the opening.
I have overhauled my book so many times that I feel I've given as much scrutiny to my middle and end as I have the beginning. Recently, just as an experiment, I started reading my book in the middle. I was relieved that it didn't feel rushed or meh-worthy. Of course I am not unbiased, despite the objectivity I managed to acquire by having left the book aside for a long time, but to the best of my knowledge and ability, I'm not doing a bait-and-switch.
To my writer friends: how do you overcome the temptation of focusing too much on the beginning and not enough for the rest? Or is it even a temptation?